A Kennesaw State flag flies in the south end zone before the Owls’ game against Charleston Southern at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2017. Special/Daniel Varnado
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kennesaw State defense outduels offense in spring game

Kennesaw State, coming off the best season in school history (12-2), held its spring game Friday night.

The defense defeated the offense 35-34 in a brief three-quarter affair. Here are five observations from the scrimmage:

1. Dorian Miles is a mismatch nightmare

Miles had only two catches in the first half, but he made the most of both – and should’ve had a few more.

The sophomore snagged a touchdown catch in the right corner of the end zone from quarterback Donovan Taitt with 1:08 left in the first quarter. He scored in that same corner again one second before halftime, sitting alone for an easy catch from Daniel David.

“I’m much more comfortable than when I first got here,” Miles said. “Coming out of high school, not really knowing what I was getting into. … Every receiver wants the ball. Every receiver wants to score. And in this offense, you get the opportunity to. You just have to capitalize.”

There were a few other instances that Miles separated from the defender. Taitt saw him open deep down the sideline but under threw the pass. Miles also drew two defensive pass interference calls.

Worth noting: The 6-foot-2 Taitt’s 4.39 40-yard dash time is best on the team, according to the KSU website.

2.The quarterback play

Neither Taitt or David would be described as sharp, but both had their moments. Outside each’s touchdown to Taitt, both showed the ability to navigate the pocket comfortably and make plays with their legs.

Starter Chandler Burks didn’t play, but the Owls can feel confident either backup could at least keep the offense afloat if need be. Taitt, a Mount Union transfer, could be a multi-purpose tool with his speed and ball skills.

David played in nine games in 2016, when he ranked third on the team with 593 yards. He seemed to find his stride when the offense went up-tempo, as it did to open the second half.

Coach Brian Bohannon said he wanted to see David improve as a decision-maker. He’s feast or famine at times, meaning the importance comes in limiting his bad plays.

Even on the throw to Miles, David danced around the pocket and could’ve cost his team three points had the pass fallen incomplete. Still, David’s confident he’s getting better.

“My decision making has definitely improved,” David said. “First two scrimmages I didn’t really have my mind right. I threw a few interceptions, didn’t hold on to the ball well. Tonight I made some good decisions. I think I’ve improved.”

Sophomore Caleb O’Neal also played a drive but didn’t attempt a pass.

3. Block and score

The biggest play of the night was provided by the gold team.

Defensive back Akebren Ralls blocked a field goal attempt and recovered the ball on the first drive of the second half and returned it 87 yards for the defense’s only score.

“Coach puts a lot of emphasis on special-teams plays,” said Ralls, who couldn’t hide his excitement. The senior has played a key role in the secondary over the past two seasons.

4. The offense responds

The defense had leveled the offense in the first two scrimmages, allowing only one touchdown. That’s an impressive feat considering KSU boasts one of the country’s more fearsome rushing attacks.

The Owls’ offense, despite the final score, carved the defense for most of the night. It rushed for 281 yards, with David leading the way at 70 yards on 13 attempts.

“I had a feeling it was going to be different tonight,” Bohannon said. “It was just different. You’re in the stadium. I had a feeling they’d come out here and find a way to move the ball some. But I think it was good for the offense from an encouraging confidence standpoint.

“Now when you look at the practices, the offense moved the ball. It was just the scrimmages, the last two, one touchdown in two scrimmages. … There were encouraging things.”

5. Work to do

Bohannon didn’t mince words: His team made progress, but has a ways to go before the Aug. 30 season opener against Georgia State.

“I think we got a lot accomplished this spring,” he said. “But we’ve got work to do before the fall. To get all the pieces together, to be what we can be. Encouraged by some things today. I saw some guys compete, and that was really what I wanted to see, guys flying around and competing.

“I thought the energy was decent our there tonight. … Encouraged by the way some guys finished up. We need to get guys healthy and continue to put the pieces together coming into the fall to get ready to go.”

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